Driving Myself Crazy

Tomorrow my son has a doctor’s appoint in New Orleans, and I’m terrified.

I’m not scared because it likely my boy has a terrible disease. This appointment has nothing to do with anything of the sort. Yes, we could find out some potentially life-changing diagnosis, but chances are the geneticist is simply going to tell me I’ve got a very tall , very healthy young man on my hands. It’s what I’m expecting and even if things go a different why, my soul is already at peace with the appointment.

So what, you might wonder, has me in such a frantic state of mind. The answer is simple: driving.

 

driving crazy

I’ve never liked driving.

I much prefer riding, as long as I can ride in the front passenger’s seat. If I must sit in the back, then I need lots of cold air and a pillow, and maybe a dramamine, in order to keep myself happy. For as long as I can remember, I suffer from car sickness. Back seats, trying to read anything (including a map), being too hot or too warm or not having enough air movement … all of these things make it worse. Thankfully, I’m not the sort that vomits. I just get bad headaches and feel incredibly nauseous until the vehicle stops moving.

I never get car sick when I am the driver. Therefore you might expect I’d want to always drive. That’s not the case either. Insane as it might sound, I’d much rather ride than drive.

Why, you might wonder, is this the case?

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Perhaps it is because I grew up in a one-light town.

This light wasn’t even your standard stop light. No, it just blinked, a  slow cautionary yellow blinking light at the Y-intersection in the center of what most people would even hesitate to call a town.

When I left home for college, I didn’t have a car. I always caught a ride with friends, back and forth from home to school and back to home again. The campus was small enough to walk, and I was fortunate enough to have several friends with cars who could drive me off-campus on occasions when I needed a lift.

It wasn’t until I married that I had any real experience with big city driving. Over the years, I’ve driven in a lot of big cities:  Newport News, VA; Monterey, CA; Houston, TX; Austin, TX, and Savannah, Georgia (which, by the way, is the capitol of one-way streets going nowhere). I can handle driving in traffic. It’s not a huge problem.

So why, you might wonder, is traveling over to New Orleans freaking me out?

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Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m not a map girl.

Oh, I can read a map, but I cannot remember it in detail in my head and I certainly can’t read it as I travel down the road (either as the driver or a passenger). When I need to get to a place that I don’t already know how to find, I either get verbal directions (from another passenger or perhaps even beforehand if the area is one with which I am already familiar) or by paying close attention to the roads and visual markers as I ride around in new places.

I’ve been to New Orleans several times, but I’ve never been to where I am going and I’ve never driven the route I am about to take. While I’ve studied the map in preparation for this driving experience, I am scared I am not going to remember it as I attempt to navigate my way tomorrow morning.

My big fear is taking one wrong turn.  Then there I’ll be …  lost … with my son … in New Orleans … near the French Quarter. I literally feel as if I might be one terrible half-step from catastrophe.

Fortunately for me, I’ve got an ace up my sleeve.

Exactly what, you might wonder, could this possibly be?

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Have I mentioned the particular child going with me on this New Orleans adventure is a mapping genius?

I’m serious. This is the kid who asked for a road atlas for Christmas this past year. He already had one, but some of the pages were getting worn out and he desired to have the most recent edition in case there were any “minor changes to roadways.” (His words, not mine.) It’s actually the fifth road map I’ve bought him, not counting the two he stole borrowed from his grandfather’s house.

This boy of mine has been reading maps for as long as either of us can remember. Sometimes I wonder if he was born with a map in his hand, only I was there and I’m pretty sure he came out empty-handed. When he was a toddler, the TV show Dora the Explorer used to frustrated both of us. I was frustrated by the repetitive songs. He was frustrated because the maps were “always the same.” (Again, these are his words. I’m just reporting the facts of the story.)

When he was seven years old, this boy directed me from rural north Louisiana all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I drove. He told me where to go. We made it … me behind the wheel, him riding shotgun with a map, and his two younger siblings sleeping and fighting in their carseats in the back of our packed minivan. I wondered at the time if he would someday be a trucker.

So what, you might wonder, is my big fear about this trip seeing as I am taking along an incredible navigator?

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Fear of failure?

Probably. I don’t like the idea of not succeeding. And in my mind, succeeding would be me backing out of my driveway with full confidence of knowing exactly where I am going, which turns to make, where to park, how to find the particular doctor’s office I need in a rather large and intimidating hospital, and knowing I’ll get us both safely home in time for dinner.

Fear of dependence on another person?

Definitely. It’s hard to depend on someone else for your safety.

Especially if that someone is quite a bit younger than you.

Especially if that someone is your child.

The older my children grow, the harder it is for me to let them actually grow up, especially in areas in which I have never really felt successful. Already my son is better than me when it comes to getting around new places, and he doesn’t even have a driver’s license … and won’t for another two years, at least.

Tonight as I am preparing for tomorrow’s journey, I realize in the morning I am going to depend upon this boy I birthed to get me to our final destination. How can this possibly be when I vividly recall changing his diapers and teaching him to use a spoon? I’m still instructing him on the finer points of good manners and praying that some of what I teach him regarding Algebra 1 sticks in his brain.

It feels so hard to swallow my pride and let him take the lead. And yet tomorrow he’s going to be in charge. I know I will actually be the one behind the wheel of the car, but I’m going to be relying on his judgement … whether I’m ready for it or not.

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I think there is another issue at heart here as well.

Trust in God.

Do I really believe God is always with me, as He has promised? If I did, would I really be so worried?

This is as much a test in trusting God as it is in learning to hand over trust to my son.  What I know deep inside is that I can either continue to drive myself crazy with the fears running around in my brain, or I can decide to take a deep breath and trust in God to lead both me and my amazing teen boy through the journey we must take tomorrow.

After all, each day is nothing more than a lesson in learning to trust. Some days are just harder than others.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

Fears

Another post combining assignments from Writing 101. This time I am completing assignment 17 (addressing one of your worst fears) along with assignment 19 (an unedited free write of at least 400 words).  

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When I was eight or nine years old, there was a scary incidence which involved me getting caught in a strong current while swimming with a friend. Actually, we were on the underside of a barge-type party boat, holding onto the metal frame and talking in the cool shade it provided. The barge was on the river, anchored but with the motor idling. No parents or other adults were with us, aware of what we were doing. In my memory, it also seems as if it might have been lightly raining as well, which was why we were perhaps underneath the barge, but of this I remain uncertain. However, one thing is always crystal clear in that memory:  I knew my parents would have disapproved of the activity in which I was participating.  Yet I was there … unable to say no to my friend, feeling guilty, but participating anyway.

At some point in the afternoon, my hands slipped off the metal frame, and I found myself trapped in a current. Although I knew how to swim relatively well in a safe pool, I wasn’t skilled at river swimming and I didn’t know how to get out of the current. Suddenly, I realized I was being pulled toward the motor of the barge. In that moment, I recall how everything moved in slow-motion. I never felt frightened, though I rightfully should have been.  Rather it was more like watching a movie of someone else instead of the feeling of impending danger being directed toward myself.

To this day, I don’t recall if anyone, including me,  shouted or screamed. I don’t remember who reached out and pulled me from the current, or whether I thanked them afterwards.  All I remember was the intense relief that washed over me.  I wasn’t going to be caught in my disobedience.

To this day, I have a fear of being caught in the act of doing something terribly wrong. I suppose as far as fears go it isn’t such a bad one to have. After all, it’s kept me from a lot of trouble and heartache over the years.

The older I get, the more I struggle with the fear of obedience rather than the fear of disobedience. Not obedience to parents or laws or even traditional morals. I’m talking about obedience to God, particularly the sort of obedience in which He asks us to do something hard and unexpected. I fear God asking me to do something I don’t want to do, something big and scary that might cause me some discomfort or a change in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to living.

For years, I toyed with the idea of adoption. It was more talk than anything, a sort of respect and love for those I knew who adopted and a desire to follow in their footsteps. Even as a single mother, I expressed a desire and a longing to adopt a child, always imagining a special needs child from a foreign land. After Jon and I married, the topic came up for discussion more than once, but we were never on the same page.

A couple of months ago, Jon called me and suggested we find a way to go to a local Wait No More Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family. All either of us knew was that it was for families interested in adoption or foster care. Obviously, I was mainly interested in adoption and Jon was still highly skeptical of both.

And yet, by the time the day was over, Jon and I were both on the same page … foster care with the option to adopt.

Let me be frank … obedience in this situation scares me to no end. The mere idea of bringing a child, one who has suffered so much, into our home. I’m sure any questions or concerns you can think of, I’ve already thought of and more. Jon and I constantly check our motives.

Up until about two months ago, I never really gave foster care much of a thought. I didn’t hear of it within my social realms or talk with others who were into fostering children. But once I began to hear God calling out to me, fostering is everywhere. I’ve met other bloggers who foster, became aware of former foster children in my own church, and even discovered a church in my community with a ministry geared toward foster families.

The most amazing part is how in a relatively short time Jon and I have gone from being divided and uncertain regarding God’s desires for our family to being united and certain of what God is showing us to do.  Our hearts and our home are opened to His plan for our family, and very likely one day soon, perhaps even by the end of the summer, there will be more than just the seven of us living here.

I’m sure there will be plenty of hard moments as a foster mother. My eyes are wide-open. And I’m a bit scared of the entire proposition, if the truth be told.

And yet, in the end, I am far more fearful of being disobedient to God than of being faithful to follow through in obedience to His calling for my life.

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Psalm 199:60

D is for …

letterD

Even though I am 41 years old, I am still a daddy’s girl. My dad is one incredible man.  In my opinion, he is just short of being able to part the waters and calm the seas.  And while my dad is truly just a man,incapable of performing miracles, there was a time when I actually confused the voice of my father with the voice of God Himself.

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Throughout my childhood, my family kept a tiny flock of sheep in the backyard, as part of a 4-H project.  It was not uncommon for the sheep to find a way of escape from the small pen in our backyard.  It seemed we only become aware of their fugitive state whenever some neighbor telephoned to let us know our wooly pets were out wandering along the roadsides. Additionally, our  lambs were infamous for taking midnight walks, and whenever this happened there was no waiting until morning to go and fetch them home.  My father always insisted we immediately track down those sheep, no matter the hour day or night, and return them home to the safe pen in our backyard as soon as possible.

I could tell many tales about these sheep-chasing escapades, but one in particular always stands out in my memory.  It happened on a humid night the fall I turned sixteen.

The ringing of our phone roused me slightly from my deep sleep.  It was soon followed by my dad’s hard knock on the door of the bedroom I shared with my sister.   “Paige,” he said, “get up! The sheep are out along the highway, somewhere toward the high school. Your brother and I are heading out now.  You follow along just as soon as you get dressed. Meet us on the other side of the bridge.”

I heard the front door shut as they walked out of the house, and then their voices carrying softly as they walked across the front yard, headed toward the highway that stretched out in front of our brick home.  A wave of jealousy swept over me as I looked over at my younger sister, snugly tucked into dreams instead of up to go chase sheep in the night.

Five or six minutes later I was dressed and walking out of the house.  The night sky was dark.  No moon or stars lit the ground. The street light shone dimly on the other side of the highway, providing me with just enough light to dodge a puddle of water at the edge of our driveway.

Walking down the center of the highway, I suddenly felt very alone in the deep darkness. At shortly after 2 am, the roads in our rural town were quiet.  The only sounds I could hear were the sounds of tree frogs, crickets and the occasional hooting of an owl. I walked along, the fear in my throat growing thicker and sharper with each step that took me away from the safety of my home.  I quickened my pace, taking hurried steps as my shoes pounding against the dark pavement in my efforts to reach my father as soon as possible.

Soon I approached the bridge.  It was darker there. The trees overhung across the road, creating deep shadows.  The intense darkness blocked out even the reflective yellow stripes dividing the two-lane road. I hesitated before stepping onto the bridge, part of me knowing that in order to reach the safety of my father I had to get to the other side while another voice in my head screamed for me to run home.

Breathing a prayer, I put my foot forward and started across.  Toward the midpoint of the bridge, I heard a noise, a sort of rustling that didn’t sound like the leaves on the trees. I paused, but didn’t hear anything other than the pounding of my own heart.  I started walking again, but after another step stopped, feeling as if I wasn’t alone on the bridge.  Unable to see or hear anything, I shook off my fear and picked up my foot, determined to get to the other side.

At that exact moment,  a voice boomed out of the darkness:

“Paige!  Go back and get the truck!”

Immediately, I turned on my heels and began to run, faster than I had ever run in my entire life.  (Honestly, this wasn’t a huge feat. I was never a fast runner to begin with, and so it wouldn’t have taken much more than a steady jog to beat my all-time fastest run. Still, I rather like to recall this run as if I made it back home in record time.)

I ran straight for my dad’s truck, the beat-up old Ford that he drove back and forth to his job at our family hardware store.  Yanking open the door, I dove behind the steering wheel, slamming myself inside the truck. I took several deep, long breaths. My heart thumped wildly in my chest, though I wasn’t sure if it was due to the running, the fear coursing through my body or the realization that I had just heard the voice of God in the night.

The keys were in the truck’s ignition, just where I expected them to be, for in rural Louisiana during the mid-80’s, most people never bothered to take their car keys into the house. I turned the key and the truck rumbled to life. Three minutes later, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Ahead was my father and brother herding the small flock of sheep toward me.  I quickly hopped out, leaving the headlights on and the engine idling.

As my father approached, he said, “Thanks for bringing the truck! You got here just at the right time.”

I nodded.  “No problem, Dad. I’m just glad God told me to do it … and that I obeyed even though I was really scared.”

My father looked up from his task of calmly guiding the bleating lambs to give me a brief confused look … And then he started to laugh, deep and hard until it seemed as if he might never stop.  He finally caught his breath.  “Paige,” he said between chuckles, “that was me.  I told you to go back for the truck.  Didn’t you recognize my voice?!”

“That was you?  You were on the bridge with me?” It was my turn to be confused.

“Yes.  I hate to disappoint you, but you heard my voice and not the voice of God.” My father was still obviously tickled by my confusion.

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It’s been at least 25 years since that deep, dark night when I thought I heard God in the sound of my father’s voice.  Yet each time I recall that bridge and the voice that boomed from the darkness, I reminded of two ways that my earthly father taught me important truths about my Heavenly Father.

Almost any Christian will tell you that hearing and recognizing the voice of God can be difficult. Many Christians go through life without ever really learning how to listen for God’s voice.  I was fortunate.  My dad taught me to listen for God’s voice by placing a great importance on studying the scriptures, daily prayer, attending weekly orship services, and expecting me to learn and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  I am grateful for my daddy who taught me how to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

The second truth is a reminder that in this life we will have troubles.  Jesus Himself said, “You will have suffering in this world.”  (John 16:33).  But He also said, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)  Just like my dad was with me on that dark bridge so many nights ago, my Heavenly Father is also with me whatever my circumstances.

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D is for Dad … and I’m grateful for mine!

 

When Mountains Don’t Move

He (Jesus) told them, “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matt. 17:20)

But what if we pray, and the mountains don’t move.

          One of my children cannot swallow pills. We’ve tried every trick in the book, bought several cool gadgets and throat sprays, and have even spoken with a variety of doctors and pharmacists while seeking for a solution to this exasperating problem. Nothing works.  The pills will not go down. Perhaps it is only psychological, but it is creating big challenges for my young teen.

I cannot lose weight. No matter what I do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge. From diet programs like Weight Watchers to medically-supervised diets like Medifast to diligently watching carbs and sugar while incorporating 20+ minutes of exercise a day … I’ve tried it all and nothing works to take the weight off my body. Hormonal imbalances caused by a medical condition and genetics are both partly to blame.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that age must play a factor as well. (In this particular way, forty is definitely not the new thirty!)

This past week, my child and I have both felt overwhelmed by our problems. We are hopeless things will ever change, and so we react to our situations from that deep, dark place of defeat.  It’s as if we are standing at the foot of a looming mountain, trying to figure out a way to get to the other side. And from our vantage point, it feels like trying to scale up a vertical cliff without a harness, rope or anchor to help make the climb.

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Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

      Mountains are an expected part of this journey called life, and truthfully mountains aren’t necessarily a bad thing. When looked at from a distance, mountains create a lovely and picturesque landscape. Traveling a path that goes nearer a mountain still adds a certain scenic quality to the journey. And though climbing up a well-laid mountain path might be hard, everyone knows the journey is worth it. Standing at the very top, the weary traveler can look out with confidence, knowing the mountain challenge was conquered. Hard won victories give extra meaning to the traveling, and at some future date the traveler will have a tale to tell with those he meets along the journey.

But there are times when a mountain is right in the middle of the road you must take. There seems to be no path around it. There seems to be no path that leads over it.  All a traveler can do is work to forge a road that will get them to the other side.  It’s at times like this that believers begin to pray for the mountain to move.

My faith tells me that even with just the tiniest bit of faith, the mountains that block my path will move.  With all my heart I believe this is true. I’ve known mountains in my life that have miraculously moved out of the way with a single prayer. I can testify time and again how a little faith  in God, combined with prayer, have made the impossible happen.

But what about when the mountain doesn’t move? What does that mean? Is it because I lack faith?  Perhaps I’ve sinned?  My typical response is to fret and fume while trying to figure out why my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling.  As defeat sets in, anxiety and depression begin to control my thoughts and actions. A sense of hopelessness takes over and soon I no longer believe my mountain can be conquered.  Thankfully, God is teaching me a better way.

~I need to trust the heart of God more than the hand of God.~

     My faith is too often based on the evidence of God working in my life.  But what sort of faith is that? After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  A believing faith has to be more than a seeing faith.

~I need to remember that I am not ever alone.~

     When I pray and nothing happens, I begin to fear that God has abandoned me right there at the foot of the mountain.  Instead, I need to remember what Moses said to Joshua as he prepared to take the Israelites into the Promised Land,  “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)  Not only does God not leave me at the foot of the mountain alone, He promises to go before me!

~I need to believe God’s plans for my life are good.~

     God is showing me that in spite of the problematic mountains I encounter in my life, He still has great plans for me. My husband’s favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, a testament to that fact.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   A mountain I can’t cross yet does not mean God is through with me.

~I need to remember the power and the purpose in praying without ceasing.~

     My mountains definitely keep me praying, and this is a good thing.  One of my biggest tendencies is to neglect talking with God on a regular basis whenever my life is humming along without problems. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the Apostle Paul reminds believers to “pray constantly.” I believe if nothing else my problems serve a great purpose just by keeping me on my knees, talking to God and laying my burdens down at His feet.

     And this brings me right back to the beginning:  Sometimes mountains don’t move out of my way, no matter how much I pray. But when the mountain doesn’t move, this simply means there is an opportunity for me to move closer to God.